U.S. government signs new land swap for Alaskan wildlife refuge road

Lagoons in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, in August 2010. (Kristine Sowl/United States Fisheries and Wildlife Service/Reuters)
U.S. Interior Department has already signed a new land swap agreement for a King Cove road, southwestern Alaska, days after it gave up its appeal of a court ruling that its prior agreement violated federal law.

Alaska Public Media has obtained a copy of the new agreement, signed earlier this month by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and the CEO of King Cove Corporation.

As with previous agreements, this one calls for the department to give land in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to the Native corporation in exchange for land of equal value. The intent is to allow the corporation to complete the final 12 miles of road to Cold Bay.

This maps shows the road (in red) that would connect King Cove and Cold Bay through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. (Shiri Segal/Alaska Public Media)

Much of the new agreement is identical to the old one. This time, though, the swap is not limited to 500 acres and the agreement doesn’t say the road is limited to non-commercial use, though it does specify it would be unpaved.

Bernhardt also signed a 20-page document setting out his reasons for approving the land swap. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason blocked the 2018 agreement, saying former secretary Ryan Zinke hadn’t explained his policy, in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.

Environmental groups have been fighting the road proposal in court for years, and they’ve pledged to continue.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: First Nation in Canada’s Northwest Territories votes to support creation of national park reserve, CBC News

Finland: Finland’s national parks popular despite poor maintenance, Yle News

Russia: Russia adds small Arctic island to large national park, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: U.S. Gov quietly allows land survey in Alaskan wildlife refuge, enviro groups furious, Alaska Public Media

Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

For more news from Alaska visit Alaska Public Media.

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